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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 11/07/2006
REVIEW OF CUSTOMER SERVICES



Summary & Purpose
This report sets out the information and evidence gathered by the Committee as part of its review of Customer Services. In particular the report sets out the results of the member visit to Chorley Borough Council and draws on the results of the residents’ customer satisfaction survey undertaken in February 2006. The evidence obtained from staff interviews conducted by the Customer Services Sub-Committee will be reported at the meeting. On the basis of the above information and other background material reported to earlier meetings it is intended that the Committee will consider the outcomes of the review of Customer Services, draw conclusions and make recommendations for inclusion in its final report to the Executive on the issue.

APPENDIX J.2
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

EXECUTIVE – 11TH JULY 2006

CORPORATE OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – 3RD JULY 2006

Title:

REVIEW OF CUSTOMER SERVICES
[Wards Affected: All]

Summary and Purpose:

This report sets out the information and evidence gathered by the Committee as part of its review of Customer Services. In particular the report sets out the results of the member visit to Chorley Borough Council and draws on the results of the residents’ customer satisfaction survey undertaken in February 2006. The evidence obtained from staff interviews conducted by the Customer Services Sub-Committee will be reported at the meeting. On the basis of the above information and other background material reported to earlier meetings it is intended that the Committee will consider the outcomes of the review of Customer Services, draw conclusions and make recommendations for inclusion in its final report to the Executive on the issue.

Environmental implications

The findings of the review will take into account the environmental benefits of the various methods of providing customer service.

Social / community implications:

The findings of the review will take into account the social effects of the various methods of providing customer service with particular emphasis on hard to reach groups and the socially excluded.

E-Government implications:

Part of the review will be to consider how e-Government initiatives contribute to customer service. In particular the review is to consider the case for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems as a means of improving customer service in Waverley.

Resource and legal implications:

There are no direct resource and legal implications associated with this report other than the officer time involved in the review, which can be contained within approved budgets. The cost and any legal implications that emerge from the review will depend on the Committee’s findings and recommendations which will be included in its final report to be considered by the Executive. However on the issue of CRM systems members will need to consider the level of investment required to implement a full-blown CRM system. For example, Chorley Borough Council, even as part of a partnership project involving six other districts and Lancashire County Council, have provided initial capital funding of 95,000 as its contribution toward the joint CRM project.

Background

1. The decision of the Committee to select the effectiveness of Waverley’s customer relations as an area for in-depth review in July 2005 reflected the importance that members place on how the Council interacts and serves its customers across all services and delivers customer focused services. For the purpose of the review, it has been assumed that customer relations would be restricted to interaction between officers and outside customers i.e. internal customers interactions between departments would be excluded. The review was also intended to assist the Council in reaching conclusions over the benefits and appropriateness for Waverley of introducing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, as is explained below.

Customer Relationship Management

2. The Government, through its Implementing Electronic Government Programme (IEG), specifically identified the adoption of CRM in order to meet specific priority outcomes necessary to deliver the e-Government agenda.

3. In the Executive’s discussions it has been recognised that, in order to realise the customer service benefits and efficiency savings of implementing CRM, the structure and customer-service strategy of the organisation would have to be ready to take full advantage of the technology. It has also been recognised that the investment of resource would go beyond that of obtaining the system hardware and software. It would also require considerable investment in staffing and training, adaptation of office accommodation and telephony.

4. The then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister asked Councils to self-assess their 2005/06 IEG 4 returns and “self-refer” themselves to the IDeA’s (Improvement and Development Agency) Implementation Support Unit (ISU) if they were not in a position to implement the key ‘Priority Outcomes’. Waverley for the reasons outlined above are unable to meet CRM based ‘Priority Outcomes’ and therefore Waverley “self-referred” itself to the ISU in January 2005.

5. A representative from the IDeA has been invited to attend the meeting to speak on the issue of CRM and to provide a national perspective on customer service within local authorities.

Key questions

6. It was agreed that the review would focus on addressing the following key questions:

What is the level of customer satisfaction for people contacting the Council? What customer service standards and strategies are in place across the Council? How do customers contact the Council for services and or information?

What are acknowledged exponents of best practice in customer service doing in other authorities? What are members’ views/experiences of the effectiveness of Waverley’s customer relations?

What would be the benefits in customer service delivery of introducing a CRM system?

How can we improve service delivery and therefore customer relations?

7. The timing of this review coincides with the forthcoming reorganisation of the Council and any recommendations/findings would aim to inform this process.

Evidence from Chorley Borough Council visit and the Residents’ Survey

8. Member and officer feedback on the visit, on 13th February 2006, to Chorley Borough Council, Lancashire, which was reported to the Committee in March 2006, is attached as an Annexe. Chorley Borough Council has been designated a three star best value authority for its approach to customer service.

9. A copy of the final report from QCL Market Research on the Residents’ Survey, carried out as part of the customer service review was included on the agenda of the last meeting of the Committee held on 30th May 2006. Members are asked to bring their copy of this report to the meeting.

Frontline staff interviews

10. The Committee appointed a Customer Services Review Sub-Committee to undertake a series of interviews with frontline customer service staff. The Sub-Committee met on 21st June and its findings are reported elsewhere on this agenda.

Issues and actions for consideration

11. As a result of the evidence obtained from the review, some key issues have emerged, which could form the basis of the Committee’s findings and conclusions and which in turn would form the basis of proposed recommendations to the Executive. The Committee may therefore wish to consider or add to the following list of issues and potential actions identified below:

I. The evidence from the residents survey commissioned by the Committee shows generally high levels of customer satisfaction for the customer service provided by Waverley II. The survey findings do not provide evidence that the existing arrangements for customer contact are failing – on the face of it there is no overwhelming driver for change coming from customers that indicate a radical change to customer service is required

III. Waverley’s customer service is, with the exception of Locality Offices, based on a traditional departmental basis

IV. There is currently no co-ordinated/corporate shared customer service culture/ethos or Customer Service Strategy for Waverley as a whole, although work on a strategy is in progress

V. Members who participated in the Chorley Borough Council visit were impressed by the Customer Service culture ingrained throughout the organisation, as evidenced through training and a programme of core competencies

VI. Chorley invested approximately 500,00 on refurbishing the ground floor of its main offices to create its customer contact area and associated interview rooms

VII. Waverley have areas where a contact centre approach is being developed or is in place but these are service/department based e.g Planning Enquiry Team, Housing Maintenance and the temporary Recycling Team based at Farnham Depot

VIII. At Chorley separating the customer frontline from individual services/departments was part of an approach to develop customer service expertise which would free up scarce professional/back office staff to focus on areas of work which require their detailed professional skills and expertise

IX. The residents’ survey indicates strong public support for the Council’s Locality Offices and that they are accessible and provide value for money

X. The Locality Office customer service pilot project for face to face customers represent a successful experiment in providing a ‘one stop shop / first point of contact’ service. The experiment has been low investment and has not been adopted as an approach Council-wide at the Godalming Main Offices or as a model for telephone contact – (see notes I and II)

XI. The success of the Locality Offices pilot project is reflected in the residents' survey results and particularly the figures on whether the service had improved or got worse over the last five years with 14% of residents indicating the service had improved with only 1% believing the service had got worse

XII. The residents' survey showed that 74% of residents now have access to the internet and this represents a huge opportunity for customer service provision which is both cost effective and accessible 24/7

XIII. The development of the Council’s website needs to become a mainsteam access channel and part of a Waverley Customer Service Strategy – the residents' survey shows that using the internet for planning applications has proved popular and is impacting on customers need to call in to offices to view plans – the benefits in cost savings from developing self service internet applications are apparent and to be encouraged

XIV. It is noted that 10% of residents now communicate with Waverley by e-mail and most are satisfied with the response and time taken to reply – at present there are no Council-wide targets on replying to e-mails

XV. Chorley have successfully closed their cash office service and instead provide payment facilities for those who prefer to pay by cash at a range of outlets using the AllPay service. Members may consider advocating this or a similar approach for Waverley particularly in the light of the survey results on payment methods which indicated that if a cash payment facility were totally removed, this would impact on 6% of all residents with other existing cash office users indicating they would pay in other ways. There are no plans to withdraw the cash payment service altogether but it may be appropriate to consider alternative service providers which could offer greater choices of outlet for customer rather than Waverley operated cash offices

XVI. Is now an opportunity for a new customer service approach as part of the reorganisation of the Council or, as the existing level of customer service is generally well received by residents, is there a need to change? – see the report later on the agenda on the Corporate Plan and the section on Lesser Priorities

XVII. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in the public sector has developed as systems which allow organisations to manage every aspect of their relationship with their customers. In the context of local government, information about customers/citizens is acquired from various sources and brought together in a joined up and integrated way. Chorley have adopted a partnership approach with Lancashire County Council and other neighbouring districts to implement a CRM system. At the time of our member visit the system had not been fully implemented. For Chorley Borough Council’s own services and contact centre it was using technology that did not represent a full blown CRM system and instead was using Team Knowledge software which is already used in Waverley. Chorley saw the advantages of CRM as providing information on customers that would in the future allow a more proactive relationship with customers down to the targeting of specific services/information that would be of use to the customer. Members will need to consider the benefits to Waverley from introducing CRM.

Recommendation

The Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee is recommended to consider the outcomes of the review of Customer Services, with particular reference to paragraph 11 above, the separate report from the Customer Services Review Sub-Committee who have carried out frontline staff interviews, and to then draw conclusions and make recommendations for inclusion in the final report to the Executive on the issue.


Background Papers (HCMS)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.
______________________________________________________________
CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Roger Standing Telephone: 01483 523221

ANNEXE 1

WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL
CORPORATE OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – 21ST MARCH 2006

Title:

REVIEW OF CUSTOMER SERVICE – VISIT TO CHORLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

[Wards Affected: All]

Summary and purpose:

The report provides member and officer feedback on the visit which took place on 13th February 2006, to Chorley Borough Council, Lancashire, which has been designated a three star best value authority for its approach to customer service.


Environmental implications

The review will take into account the environmental benefits of the various methods of providing customer service.

Social / community implications:

The review will take into account the social effects of the various methods of providing customer service with particular emphasis on hard to reach groups and the socially excluded.

E-Government implications:

Part of the review will be to consider how e-Government initiatives contribute to customer service. In particular the review will evaluate and consider the case for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems as a means of improving customer service in Waverley.

Resource and legal implications:

There are no direct resource and legal implications associated with this report other than the officer time involved in the review, which can be contained within approved budgets.


Background

1. The Improvement and Development Agency’s (IDeA) Strategic Support Unit (SSU) who were allocated to Waverley to provide advice on the issue of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as Waverley were unable to meet key e-Government ‘Priority Outcomes’ on this requirement. The IDeA suggested Chorley Borough Council was an example of an authority developing best practice in the area of customer service and the Committee, at its meeting on 21st November 2005, agreed to a member/officer visit to Chorley to see its approach to customer service at first hand.

Chorley Borough Council

2. The borough of Chorley is situated in central Lancashire and covers around 80 square miles. Its eastern border lies on sparsely populated upland rising towards the West Pennine Moors; the central spine is more urban, continuing the market town of Chorley and settlements close to the M6 and A6 that run north-south through the borough. In the west, the land merges into the Lancashire plain and is dotted with villages and hamlets. The borough is attractive with a large amount of green space. It is well-placed for access to the major cities of the north west of England with good connections to the major motorway and good railway links to Manchester and Preston. Manchester International Airport is easily accessed by motorway and rail.

3. There are 100,449 people living in 42,250 households. Of these, 20 per cent are aged under 16 years, 61 per cent are aged 16 to 59 years and 19 per cent are aged 60 years or over. The percentage of the population belonging to a black or minority ethnic community increased from 1.1 per cent in 1991 to 2.1 per cent in 2001 and is anticipated to continue to increase. The largest minority ethnic group in the borough is Indian (0.39 per cent, mainly Muslims from Gujarat) closely followed by Pakistani (0.33 per cent) and Chinese (0.31 per cent). The borough overall is relatively prosperous and ranked 172 out of 354 in the index of multiple deprivation. Around half of the adult population works outside of the borough. Within the borough the service sector accounts for 75 per cent of all employment. Council research shows that 65 per cent of the population have direct access to the internet at home and 40 per cent use the internet at work. There is 100 per cent broadband availability across the borough. This means that electronic access to Council services is popular especially with new residents. However, in the more established communities that were historically-based around manufacturing industry and mining, there is still a preference for more traditional forms of access such as face to face and telephone contact.

4. The net revenue budget for 2004/05 was 11.77 million. There are 47 councillors representing 20 wards – 21 Labour, 20 Conservative, 3 Liberal Democrat, and 3 Independent. The Council is controlled by the Labour party with cabinet support from the Liberal Democrats and the Independents. An overarching scrutiny committee manages the work programme of three scrutiny panels which focus on the three corporate priorities of customer, community, and environment. The Leader of the Council was the appointed member e-champion. The Council employs around 500 staff this includes housing service staff although a Stock Transfer exercise is currently underway. The top management structure of the authority is a Chief executive with two strategic directors.

Context for customer service development at Chorley

5. In 2001 Chorley were one of only 15 councils in the country whose Implementing E-Government Statement (IEG1) was deemed unsatisfactory by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM). The Council’s IT infrastructure by its own admission was poor and it did not have a website. In the light of its IEG failure Chorley were advised by the IDeA to mentor with Brent Borough Council, Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council and Thameside Metropolitan Borough Council who are acknowledged leaders in e-government delivery and customer service.

6. As part of its consideration of changing service delivery Chorley Borough Council undertook a public consultation exercise and received 66% support for the concept of one stop customer service.

7. To create its one stop shop Chorley has refurbished the ground floor of its central offices to a single customer service area (at a cost of 500,000) with a fast-track reception area, a customer contact area and interview rooms. Currently the authority has five town centre offices which it plans to reduce to two. The Council had also invested 500,000 to update and improve its poor IT infrastructure.

8. The Council working in partnership with six (out of twelve) other Lancashire Districts and Lancashire County Council are developing a shared telephone contact centre, using CRM technology, to pool information and provide extended services. From the customer’s perspective, the collaboration will give access to a wider range of services than those of the local district council, including County Council and other districts’ services, via a single telephone call.

9. The development of Chorley’s customer service strategy was against the backdrop of a staffing structure reorganisation creating a management structure of Chief Executive and two strategic directors and an overall reduction in the authority’s staffing of 10% in the last year.

The operation of Chorley’s Customer Contact Centre

10. Customers initially queue in the fast-track area. Customers with appointments (e.g. with planners) or with straightforward enquiries are dealt with there and then (approximately 25% of customers). Those requiring further information or assistance have their details taken down and are sent to a separate waiting and customer service area with a queue number. The average waiting time is 4 minutes. Using the information captured at the “fast-track” counter the customers details are then sent to the staff in the customer service area via the computer system in readiness for the consultation. The customer service area is open plan and welcoming with security being provided unobtrusively.

11. Chorley are currently delivering Environmental Services, Council Tax and Benefits services in this way and initially 6 staff were transferred from Benefits and Council Tax to become Customer Service Advisers. All services will in time be brought into the system including Planning and Housing services. In terms of the Housing service it was envisaged that if Stock Transfer occurs customer services would be provided on behalf of the new housing organisation through the Contact Centre.

12. There are currently approximately 150 face-to-face consultations per day. After face-to-face consultation customers are offered a questionnaire to fill in at their convenience (pre-paid postage) and about 10% of customers respond. The results indicate that 94% have their enquiry dealt with there and then and 98% say they were satisfied or very satisfied with the service they received.

13. The Customer Services staff use structured ‘scripts’ to deal with enquiries using the Team Knowledge Dialogue software programme (which Waverley uses on our website as part of the Planning Parsol Project). The ‘scripts’ used by Chorley’s customer services staff are owned and produced by the relevant service area. The ‘scripts’ are also used within the telephone contact centre.

14. The telephone contact centre is adjacent to the face-to-face contact centre and staff are interchangeable between the two areas. In addition to Borough enquiries the staff will also be able to provide information on County and other neighbouring borough services as part of the County and 6 district telephone contact centre partnership project. The partnership project operates using an Onyx CRM system. Chorley’s investment as part of the partnership CRM project was 95,000 with an ongoing cost of 6,000 per annum. The system has not yet been fully implemented because of teething problems. Chorley aims to move to a single published telephone number for the public and in terms of e-mail are using a single e-mail enquiry address which is managed as part of the contact centre and enables Chorley to respond to e-mails within defined target times.

15. The Customer Contact Centre is also used to provide surgeries for other bodies such as the Department of Work and Pensions, the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Patients Advice Liaison Service.

Cashiering service

16. Chorley had originally included a cashiering point as part of its Contact Centre which it later increased to two points. However it has now closed this facility and instead provides a cash payment service through the AllPay service which is available through many retail outlets in the borough. The Strategic Director responsible for the Customer Service project indicated that it would have been preferable to have closed their in-house cash receipting service from day one.

Management/Human resources

17. Staffing issues were identified as the greatest challenge to introducing Chorley’s approach to customer service. In Chorley the Council’s management structure with strategic directors has assisted cross-service initiatives such as the Customer Contact Centre. There was considerable investment in process mapping, re-engineering and project management and the Council recognised it would not immediately achieve a return on investment. The Council is now realising efficiency gains with a 10% reduction in staffing levels in the last year.

18. Chorley has e-Government and Customer Services strategies in place including a 'customer charter' and there is a strong internal customer focused culture within the organisation which was recognised by the Audit Commission. This is reflected in that one of the ten key competencies against which all staff are assessed is related to customer focus (whether internal or external customers).

19. There is a healthy internal culture within the organisation and this is reflected through the results from annual staff satisfaction surveys.

20. The importance of training front-line staff was recognised and a training room adjacent to the Contact Centre was established specifically for this purpose.

Future development

21. The next stages for the development of the Customer Contact Centre are about adding those services not currently offered and developing the CRM system.

22. Chorley see CRM as essential in providing management information on customer contact and through this knowledge being able to segment customers and deliver more focused and targeted services. In addition CRM is seen as assisting the drive to direct/influence customers to use other more cost effective access channels such as the internet for service and information.

Member feedback

23. The following members of the committee attended the visit to Chorley Borough Council:- Mr Gates, Mr Band, Mrs Mansell, Mr Shelley and Mr Bate, in addition the Leader of the Council, Miss Ferguson, also attended. A brief summary of the feedback from members of the Committee and possible lessons for Waverley are set out below:

a. Like most Members who attended, I was impressed with both where Chorley are and where they want to go – seamless one-stop shopping, regardless of how local government is organised. They still have some way to travel, particularly with the County Council it seemed

b. What impressed me most was the way the whole Council strategy so strongly focused on "The Customer" and "Deliverables to the Customer" and how this was reflected in the Council organisation and how it monitored its performance through O&S committees and individual officer performance

c. The mechanics seemed to have been well though through and well funded, although they did seem to require face to face to take place only in Chorley, which left a large part of the population with some travelling to do

d. Under lying the success is the management structure. This is a common theme seen also at Reigate and at Basingstoke. At Director level the focus was on strategy, not managing silos. The next level get on with the day-to-day front line delivery. That does not totally eliminate reluctance to devolve or combine activities, but there is much more flexibility to go in this direction at director level

e. Have an interesting officer structure which obviously flows over into the Executive Members’ Portfolios

f. A clearly focused strategic plan, devised at the beginning, and driven throughout by a “Champion” who could avoid/override the normal internecine disputes that follow such a cross cutting development plan

g. If we do go along the route of a one stop shop and call centre I think we need to get all departments on board at the start and not do it piecemeal

h. Whether the "Chorley" model is exactly relevant to Waverley, is I think open for discussion. But what I do think is relevant, is the importance of having a clear strategy for the future, driven Top Down & Bottom Up, which is reflected through the organisational structure and the way in which it monitors and critically reviews performance

i. The appointment of specific officers, members and systems to examine and action improvements to the developing service e.g. Customer Access Officer, Executive Portfolio Holder, Business Efficiency Board

j. Get rid of cash collection

k. Cash collection - I think we should look into this

l. I liked the idea of a cashless service with all services being done by paypoint. I think that will give our users more ways to pay. It would save on staff cost

m. Have a proper call-centre. Go for a corporate identity.

n. It will all take time and money

o. I liked the idea of the one stop shop but to do that would involve huge set up cost. Could we afford it? Not convinced about the call centre

p. I believe this to be the right way forward but it must be developed on sound business principles as a fundamental part of our Corporate Strategy. Its success will depend entirely on maximum commitment from all of the Council’s senior management both members and officers

q. We should use the Chorley approach – think big but work carefully towards achieving our aims – not biting off more than we can chew

r. a win/win/win scenario; improved customer services, improved internal procedures and long term savings

s. Its success will depend entirely on maximum commitment from all of the Council’s senior management both members and officers

t. Chorley started from a poor base (‘ground zero’) down side was high initial costs and the fact that most of the financial benefits would tend to be less tangible e.g. reduced printing costs, increased efficiency in the departments

u. Going for the “big plan” at the start and sticking to it

v. Chorley had to manage the project carefully from both a financial and HR perspective and, to my mind, we have much to learn from the way they applied sound business procedures in the design and development stages of their project

w. Getting the majority of Councillors “on-side” at the beginning of the project and having them all pushing in the same direction

x. Got members on board because they could see the benefits and money saving aspects

y. Working hard on the HR aspects to ensure that the internal benefits of the system were “sold”

z. CRM is essential to tie together all customer database information to make the system truly one point of contact

aa. The development of Partnerships to realise the long term benefits

bb. Set up partnerships within the community and with other districts and county

cc. An attraction of being able to work in partnership with other districts and the County, to develop common software systems which enable information to be provided to "customers", regardless of who is actually the service provider

dd. Links with CAB, Dept. of Work and Pensions, Patients Advice Liaison Service

ee. Do we have a ‘comprehensive Customer Care Policy and Standards’ document?

ff. Well-motivated, well trained staff who looked and sounded very competent

gg. Staff able to move seamlessly from one task to another and highly likely to take on more responsibility with ease e.g. environmental issues

hh. The Contact Centre relieves the back room staff of tasks which are likely to have a disruptive effect on their work but direct tasks to these staff when necessary

ii. Chorley are working out of one centre for a population of 100,449

jj. Should we look at other authorities?

kk. Need to wait until after any reform that the Government may propose before committing fully to any change

ll. Waverley should move in this direction, and we should not hold back waiting for local government reorganisation



Conclusion

24. The above report is submitted as part of the background evidence to the Committee’s review of Customer Service.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the report be received.


Background Papers (CEx)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.


CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Roger Standing Telephone: 01483 523221
Comms/exec/2006-07/080